Robert Samuelson has a brilliant piece on RealClearPolitics that looks at one of the most pressing issues of our time: global
What's the world's greatest moral challenge, as judged by its capacity to inflict human tragedy? It is not, I think, global warming, whose effects -- if they become as grim as predicted -- will occur over many years and provide societies time to adapt. A plausible case can be made for preventing nuclear proliferation, which threatens untold deaths and a collapse of the world economy. But the most urgent present moral challenge, I submit, is the most obvious: global poverty.
The solution to being poor is getting rich. It's economic growth. We know this. The mystery is why all societies have not adopted the obvious remedies. Just recently, the 21-member Commission on Growth and Development -- including two Nobel-prize winning economists, former prime ministers of South Korea and Peru and a former president of Mexico -- examined the puzzle.
The panel then identified five common elements of success:
-- strong trade and, usually, an eagerness to attract foreign investment;
-- political stability and "capable" governments "committed" to economic growth, though not necessarily democracy (China, South Korea and Indonesia all grew with authoritarian regimes);
-- high rates of saving and investment, usually at least 25 percent of national income;
-- economic stability, keeping government budgets and inflation under control and avoiding a broad collapse in production;
-- a willingness to "let markets allocate resources," meaning that governments didn't try to run industry.
Broad lessons are clear.
One is: Globalization works. Countries don't get rich by staying isolated. Those that embrace trade and foreign investment acquire know-how and technologies, can buy advanced products abroad and are forced to improve their competitiveness. The transmission of new ideas and products is faster than ever. After its invention, the telegram took 90 years to spread to four-fifths of developing countries; for the cell phone, the comparable diffusion was 16 years.
A second is: Outside benevolence can't rescue countries from poverty. There is a role for foreign aid, technical assistance and charity in relieving global poverty. But it is a small role. It can improve health, alleviate suffering from natural disasters or wars and provide some types of skills. But it cannot single-handedly stimulate the policies and habits that foster self-sustaining growth. Japan and China (to cite easy examples) have grown rapidly not because they received foreign aid but because they pursued pro-growth policies and embraced pro-growth values.
The full piece is a recommended read.
Unlike global poverty's arch-nemesis global warming; something can actually be done about global poverty. And ultimately, global warming may be the single biggest threat to alleviating global poverty.
We are already beginning to see the effects global warming is having on food prices. When it comes to fighting the "global moral hazards," (and I use that term loosely in reference to global warming) the world has a finite amount of resources available. Every dollar and every word wasted on global warming is another instance when global poverty is overlooked.
Additionally, one of the solutions to global warming that the West wants to impose on the developing world is reduction in pollution. This solution completely ignores the billions of tons of greenhouse gases that Western countries poured into the atmosphere during the industrial revolution, and continue to pour into the atmosphere. To deny that same right/privilege to current developing countries is not only absurd, but downright hypocritical. It's no wonder the developing world looks at the developed world with suspicion.
To truly fight global poverty we must first expose the myth of global warming.